Lack of time for training is major setback for Army readiness

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

  • A lack of training for troops is one of the Army’s biggest setbacks for readiness. Chief of U.S. Army Forces Command General Robert Abrams says soldiers are now seeing less time between deployments which limits the time they have for developing new skills. He says the Army is quote very rusty in combined-arms operations. (Army)
  • Another whistleblower is back to work at the Veterans Affairs Department after the Office of Special Counsel ruled in his favor. Greg Kendall is a public affairs officer at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. He raised concerns that some VA senior officials improperly donated $35 thousand to a local charity for fundraiser event without approval. Supervisors planned to demote Kendall after a reporter broke the story. The VA in retaliation had also changed his supervisor performance standards and overall duties. (Office of Special Counsel)
  • Starting next week, the Army is banning bicycles from Arlington National Cemetery.The new regulations arise out of Army concerns that Arlington has turned into a bicycle commuter shortcut for people headed to and from D.C. – and that riders are unintentionally disrupting the decorum of funeral processions that can sometimes number as many as 30 a day. Officials say fast-moving bikes also pose safety hazards to pedestrians walking to and from gravesites on the cemetery’s narrow walkways. Starting next Wednesday, they’ll be all-but-banned – with one exception for family members headed to and from loved ones’ gravesites with special permits. (Arlington National Cemetery)
  • The Obama Administration is looking to create a more competitive airline market. The White House and Transportation Department issues two executive actions with the hopes of doing so. It’s requiring airlines refund passengers baggage fees when it’s delivery is quote substantially delayed. It also orders online travel agents to give neutral search results. (White House)
  • The White House urges agencies to collaborate more to develop ways to apply artificial intelligence to their missions. A new report directs agencies to consider AI influence on cybersecurity and build an open-minded workforce. The AI R&D Strategic Plan lays out seven strategies which look at safety, technology, ethics and also human-AI collaboration. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Management is putting another privacy building block in place. OMB announced yesterday it is creating a new privacy office, led by a dedicated senior career employee within the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs or OIRA. OMB Director Shaun Donovan says the new office will strengthen the government’s privacy practices. The office also will lead efforts to develop comprehensive policies and strategies, and work closely with the Federal Privacy Council. Donovan says the office also will oversee and evaluate initiatives and policies from a privacy perspective. (White House)
  • New Senior Executives Association President Bill Valdez says he wants the organization to start a new leadership development program for GS-12s. The goal is to get up and coming federal employees in the leadership pipeline earlier. Valdez says the SEA board hasn’t voted yet on the program. The organization is also preparing a legislative package on the importance of continuing education opportunities for federal employees and senior executives.
  • Attorney General Loretta Lynch promises thorough supervision of the election in the wake of a 2013 Supreme Court decision. The Shelby County case ruled parts of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. That limits the Justice Department’s options for local intervention. Civil Rights Division chief Vanita Gupta says DOJ will still dispatch observers throughout the country. Lynch posts a video on the DOJ home page promising voter law enforcement but acknowledging limits from the Shelby case. (Department of Justice)